A Simple Conversation: Humanity (kind of) Restored

I hate going to the store, but today I did and I am actually glad. Because today a simple conversation restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.

Last Sunday I had to go to a superstore. God help anyone that has to do that weekly. I had one thing that they (and only they) sell that I had to get. What should have been an insignificant run into the “way too crowded” superstore, turned into 45 minutes of hell. Why? Because in the time I was trying to get in there and leave as soon as possible I witnessed some less than stellar examples of humanity.

Two women (both of different ethnicities) arguing about who should move their cart (they were both blocking the way for others and the racial slurs were flying). A woman with an obvious speech and hearing deficit was being mocked (by adults) and as her eyes filled with tears they didn’t stop (my glares and suggestion to “cut it out” did nothing). A person at the check out was calling the clerk “stupid” and “incapable” when their form of payment wasn’t quite working (again even my comment to just be nice to one another did nothing). Okay, so really I am probably lucky I didn’t get shot (I tried to redirect some awful behavior and had zero impact).
Add the loud speaker announcement that there was a plumbing issue in the women’s restroom that needed immediate attention and I was pretty much done.

I left wondering why we can’t just be nice to one another.

After losing just about all my faith in humanity at the superstore, my week started with hearing that our local little league doesn’t have enough coaches. I heard parents complain that there is a “problem with the league’s organizers” when really, there is a problem with the willingness of parents or others to coach. I saw one too many social media posts about the blame and dismay and disgust of not having coaches for our kids. Really? Are we really going to blame a not for profit organization that can’t get enough coaches when, the reality is that if just one out of twenty parents volunteered there wouldn’t be an issue?

I sat there in awe, wondering what the heck has happened to our community.

The week was already giving me little faith in our collective humanity. But then a local school was faced with finding out that parents had created a secret group on social media (go ahead and laugh now that any adult would assume that would be a “secret”). This group was formed with the intent to share exchanges about educators and leaders. I instantly lost faith in my community members. Why? Because there is a process for bringing concerns forward, and it doesn’t include bashing someone on Facebook. The only thing I could think of was that no quality educator would ever want to teach in or lead our schools if this is our community. I understand frustration in not being heard, but if the response is to bash professionals online then we have failed ourselves and our children.

I scrolled through screenshots of this less than private monstrousness and was just sad for our world.

But then today something good happened.

Know this, I hate shopping and for some reason this week has had me out into stores twice. Yuck, doesn’t begin to sum it up. But today when I ran into a store I had the kindest person processing my checkout. We visited for a bit (struck up a conversation about a Disney dress I picked up for our daughter). I found out that she’s a grandmother and that she’s lived in our community for more than forty years.

As she looked for the security tag on one item she laughed a bit and said, “maybe one day we can trust enough to not have to put these on everything.” I laughed and said, “it has been a hard week for me and humanity.” She smiled and said, “Honey, we have some great kids in our community and I have faith in them to pull us around.”

I must have given her a funny look, because she expounded on her thought.

“You know I work here every day of the week, and you know who I see getting pulled in back for theft? Adults. When security is called outside it isn’t because a teenager has parked in a handicap parking spot, but an adult. When I hear arguing over a coupon or a return, it is very rarely a kid. In fact last week I had a little four year old tell her mother that she should try to be more kind after her mom lost it over a return not being processed. When I hear bickering in the staff lounge because someone is upset over something they saw on Facebook, it has nothing to do with a kid.”

Again, my look of intrigue must have spurred her to continue.

“Our kids have more sense than we do because they are learning how to manage all of this technology, talk to each other without arguing, and create relationships with people that are different. But us adults, boy do we ever need some work.”

And there it was.

The words I needed to hear to restore a bit of hope in humanity. As I thought about it on my drive back to my office, I reflected on a beautiful point this grandmother/clerk/lovely soul made: adults never really learned how to interact with people that are different, dialogue about tough subjects, or engage appropriately online.

We adults have navigated our new world without training or guidance. We were thrown into the deep end and when we get stressed or nervous or threatened we act out in ways that are just not cool. We think that because we can Google something we know the facts, and ultimately have the depth of knowledge for everything from strep throat to learning theory. Dr. Google has become our valid source; not the pediatrician who has over 15 years of experience. I don’t know many adults that would admit their shortcomings, but my interaction with that store clerk made me wonder.

Are we as adults coming up short?

So after a bit of investigating this is what I found out.

  • 60.3 million workers in the United States have been affected by workplace bullying.
  • Hispanic workers in the United States are cited as the most bullied in the workplace.
  • Female to female bullying is reported as often as male to female bullying (those reports are more than double female to male, and male to male incidents of workplace bullying).
  • 40% of adults report feeling they have been cyberbullied.
  • Religion-based harassment and bullying is higher today than it was 20 years ago.
  • Adults engage more often in cyberbullying than teens and adolescents.
  • Over 70% of adults have witnessed online bullying.
  • Even though 1 in 4 adults live with a disability, 30% of individuals with disabilities report maltreatment.

Our community is about to implode with division, conflict, distrust, and negativity.

There is a greater sense of agnosticism, a lacking capacity to converse, a sense of entitlement to be heard, and a dull hum of cruelty too often among us. We obviously have a problem, and sadly we can’t take all adults back to Kindergarten so that we can learn how to be nice. But we need more of the good, more of the dialogue, more of the “agree to disagree,” and more attention on all of the people that are doing good things.

We might just need to be more like our kids. Because when you look at the numbers, they are doing a heck of a lot better at managing life in 2019 than the adults that surround them.

We need a wake up call to our communities and every institution within them to engage adults in learning and resetting. Leaders we need you to step in; we need you to engage and call on adults to do better. We can’t put all of this on our kids; we don’t know how to act rationally and with grace either. But maybe, just maybe we can learn to be nice again.

Adults remember that our kids are watching; so please, please, please do better. You aren’t fighting the good fight if you are attacking someone along the way.

Be better. Do better. Our kids are watching.